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Journeys in a land called cancer

After last week's special Focus section, readers were invited to tell their own cancer stories. Today, some of the most moving letters

From Saturday's Globe and Mail

'I'll take care of you'

I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, stage 3C, on Sept. 30, 2005. I was 26 years old. I am a single mom to the most amazing little boy in the world, Tyson, 3½. He is the driving force behind my survival. I don't know what I would do without him. I wonder, some days, how he will do without me. I just learned on Oct. 5 that, just seven months out of chemo, the deadly beast is back. It has already spread throughout my abdomen and pelvis. I'm due to start chemo again next week. I told him the other day that Mommy is sick again. He put his hand on my cheek and told me, "It's okay -- I'll take care of you." I will continue fighting this until there is no fight left in me. I have to, for my son.

Becky Haig, Barrie, Ont.

The hardest words

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October of 1999. It was quite a shock. I had lost my mom to Parkinson's disease and my dad to a heart ailment. Emotionally and physically, I was fried. I remember walking to the bus stop and looking up at the stars and asking, "God, are you mad at me? Did I do something to you?" The hardest part was telling my older sister Stephanie on the phone, long-distance. The words "I have cancer" are the hardest to say because they hurt so much. Both to say and hear. I have a wonderful medical team in Sudbury and with God's grace and their care I have been six years cancer-free.

Shelley Gaudreau

North Bay, Ont.

The village people

It takes a village to fight a cancer. When my wife Susan was diagnosed with cancer in 1990, she used everything she could of modern, scientific medicine, and she used her village. The result was that a cancer which normally would kill about a year after diagnosis did not kill her for many years, and most of her days were good ones.

Early on, Sue had a dream of friends, limb holding limb to form a safety net that buoyed her up from the void below. Sometimes one would drop out, but another always came to keep the net whole. The rest of her life was like that. She continued to perform as a musician. We hosted big birthday parties with improper enthusiasm.

It wasn't all good. There were 13 days in intensive care when she believed she was being tortured. But the balance was worth the price. And when the balance tipped the wrong way, she ended it. Even then, it was not quite over. I was close to being institutionalized, but again the village helped out, and I re-entered normal life.

Our village was drawn from family, church, co-workers, music friends, neighbours and other acquaintances. Having such a village is an important resource; being in one is both obligation and opportunity. Cancer, well-fought, is not a private, isolated thing.

Steve S., Calgary

A different world

I read with interest your cancer series, especially since June 15, 2006, was two days after I had my thyroid removed because of papillary cancer. On Jan. 3, my mother died when her lymphoma spread to her liver; my best friend died from leukemia a week before her; and my father died five years ago from anaplastic cancer of the thyroid that killed him in five months.

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